Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Lunchbox

Today I saw The Lunchbox, starring Nimrat Kaur and Irrfan Khan.

Ila (Kaur) feels disconnected from her husband Rajeev (Nakul Vaid). She consults with her Auntie (Bharati Achrekar) who lives upstairs and primarily communicates with her by yelling through their open windows. Auntie encourages her to try new recipes and send a delicious meal to her husband through the lunchbox delivery service that everyone in town uses.

Ila does this, and the dishes come back empty, so she thinks she's pleased her man; unfortunately, the lunches got mixed up in transit and her meal instead went to Saajan (Khan), an lonely widower who works for the government. Even worse, her husband didn't realize his meal wasn't made by her.

Pleased nonetheless that the mystery man appreciated her cooking, Ila sends him a letter in the next delivery, assuming it will go back to him. It does, and he writes back.

So begins an innocent flirtation between two people at very different places in their lives who are desperately starved for attention and validation.

As their letters get more personal and honest, the connection they feel for one another only deepens, leading them to believe they may be destined to end up together.

Kaur is phenomenal as the stunning wife who feels ignored by her partner, and makes every attempt to win him back though it's through no fault of her own that she's lost him. Khan is his usual, appealing self and makes an otherwise unlikable character extremely sympathetic and warm.

Though the reasons for their correspondence border on depressing, it's delightful to watch these two strangers meet in the middle and discover comfort in old-fashioned letters.

A satisfying romance that keeps us guessing to the very end.


Sunday, March 09, 2014

Tim's Vermeer

Today I saw the documentary Tim's Vermeer.

Tim Jenison is a longtime friend of Penn & Teller. When they learned that he had developed an obsession for determining whether or not famous Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer used technology to create his works, they decided to film the process.

The result is this funny, smart, captivating film.

Jenison, so certain that British artist David Hockney is on to something with his theory that some of history's finest artists used camera obscura techniques to complete their paintings, decides to take the idea one step further and teach himself how to paint with that process.

Using a homemade mirror-on-a-stick contraption, he tests his skills and it works. Next, he decides to go full on and renovate a warehouse in San Antonio to look just as Vermeer's studio would have looked, painstakingly re-creating the windows, objects, floors—and people from The Music Lesson. He also mixes the paints the way Vermeer would have had to in the 1600s for the most authentic match possible.

Then, for several months, Tim paints. He paints every inch of his canvas in the exact way that he proposes the original artist did. What he discovers along the way had the audience I sat with gasping in wonder and delight.

I won't spoil the ending and tell you what his conclusion came to be, but I will say that I never dreamed that watching paint dry could be so entertaining.


Saturday, March 01, 2014

Labor Day

Today I saw Labor Day, starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin.

Adele (Winslet) is a single mother to Henry (Gattlin Griffith), and has such severe depression, she seldom leaves her home. Only when she has to tend to Henry's needs, does she depart.

Frank (Brolin) is an escaped convict who takes the two hostage and demands a safe haven as the manhunt for him begins. In their sleepy New Hampshire town, there are only so many places he could be (especially since he was injured during the escape), so one does wonder why there are no door-to-door searches.

That aside, I fully admit that I found this film completely satisfying.

Winslet recalls the pain she showed in Revolutionary Road, but plays it more understated this time. She's terrified of her intruder, but also drawn to what appears to be his kindness. Brolin is brooding, yet tender and Griffith is alternately horrified and curious. They all hit the right notes.

The longer Frank stays at the family home, the more useful he becomes. His handyman skills are put to use and for reasons we never learn, he's also an amazing cook/baker. As the film turns from suspense thriller to love story, we go with it. If someone as damaged as Adele really did receive a dangerous criminal in her home, who happened to be handsome and helpful, she may just fall for him. Hell, I would.

While other critics have nit-picked the obvious flaws (Frank is often outside; the townspeople are nosy but never discover him), the oversights didn't bother me here. I enjoyed spending time in this world; watching them drink Yuban coffee, bake peach pies and play vinyls on a record player while life just kept happening.

I'll be happy to watch this again.